When Westfield Sydney opened its doors last Thursday, people flocked to see the $1.2 billion redevelopment. Stage 1 of the project saw the launch of a world class food precinct on Level 5 with other offerings on adjacent floors. Judging by my brief visit on Saturday after the Sydney Food and Wine Fair, Sydneysiders have been flocking to the centre with its unique design by the Tokyo-based interior design company Wonderwall, whose projects include the Colette store in Paris.
Yesterday I attended a tasting tour organised for the media, with a dégustation by some of the top eateries that now occupy the space called The Sydney Room.
Charlie & Co. Burgers
We start with a glass of Champagne at the much anticipated Charlie & Co. Burgers, the latest venture from renowned Chef Justin North. Building on his established Plan B with its signature Wagyu beef burger, he explains the demand for a more refined way to enjoy his food after seeing businessmen in suits lunching by the gutter.
The name Charlie & Co pays homage to Charlie Nagreen of Seymour in Wisconsin, also known as Hamburger Charlie, who originated the idea of a burger by squashing meat balls between two pieces of bread.
The demand for Justin’s burgers has been overwhelming since the centre opened its doors, with an estimated 200 burgers per day, peaking at near 500 during the opening weekend.
The most popular burger is the Wagyu & Co Burger with beetroot relish, pickled gherkin and aged cheddar on a toasted brioche bun, followed by the Federation Burger with seasoned Angus pattie, aged cheddar, fried egg, bacon, sautéed onions, iceberg lettuce and tomato on a sesame sourdough bun. Third in popularity is a Thai style Chilli Crab burger with Asian salad, lime mayonnaise and sweet chilli jam on a sesame bun.
The buns are baked at the Bécasse bakery which is yet to open for retail and the burgers are cooked and assembled on the premises.
We are treated to a tasting portion of the Wagyu. The beef is tender and succulent with a lovely sweetness from the beetroot offset against a light and toasted bun.
Charlie & Co offers the popular takeaway and a dine-in option and it is fully licensed.
Chef Justin North
With Bécasse, Etch, Plan B and Le Grand Café under his helm, Justin North elevates burgers to another level.
Eat deli Kitchen (now Reuben & Moore)
Next stop is Eat deli Kitchen, a New York-style deli offering sandwiches, hot roast rolls and a French style rotisserie.
Renowned chef Michael Moore speaks to us about his popular Wagyu Salt Beef Reuben sandwich. He uses the outside flank of Blackmore wagyu beef and applies the salting process for 4.5 hours.
The salt beef is then cut to order and assembled on the spot.
We are treated to a half portion of the famed Reuben sandwich, and after the first bite, I can understand why he goes through 100kg of beef daily. It is a divine taste that grabs you instantly. The beef is tender, moist with the right amount of saltiness that doesn’t overpower the meat or the accompanying sauerkraut, mustard, Swiss cheese on rye bread. One to come back for and enjoy the full size serving.
Chef Michael Moore
Cloudy Bay Fish Co
We stop briefly at Cloudy Bay Fish Co, with its circular design and wrap around seating.
Providing the finest Australian and New Zealand seafood to famous restaurants in the world, this is John Susman’s first retail venture serving seafood sourced exclusively from his own partners in New Zealand and Australia.
Wrap around seating & Plank roasted King salmon
Crust Gourmet Pizza
Showcasing its premier food retail model, Crust Pizza’s outlet has its ingredients laid out in full view. The pizzas are then assembled and cooked in the oven, a process that tales only 2.5 minutes. Customers are given buzzers to notify them when the pizzas are ready.
There is the option of takeaway but most prefer the eat-in experience. The pizzas are served on trays with join-the-dot images printed on plac emats with colour crayons provided to keep young minds occupied.
Crust Pizza will be introducing a gluten free range early in the new year.
We taste the Peri-Peri Chicken Pizza made with marinated chicken breast fillet, shallots, roasted capsicum, caramelised onions and Bocconcini on a tomato base, topped with Peri-Peri sauce.
Artful design and bold colour grab you attention at Top Juice with a central display of exotic fruit. Director Ali Sawan offers us a taste of the yellow dragon fruit, a sweeter variety of the more known red dragon fruit.
He offers us a version of the Lebanese sweet, Maamoul, a type of biscuit with dates and pistachio.
We are intrigued by the Chocolate Fruit, known as black sapote, a native of Mexico and Guatemala. The green-skinned fruit hides a soft dark texture, much like a dense chocolate mousse. It can be eaten on bread or by the spoonful as we do. It tastes creamy and light, surprisingly it is not overly sweet.
Top Juice provides an eclectic range of fruit salads, juices and smoothies as well as chocolate dipped fruit such as strawberries, cherries and bananas.
Via Del Corso Pasticceria e Caffé
Via Del Corso brings Italian dolci to the CBD with a delectable range of ice cream, gelati, cakes, frozen desserts, chocolates and macarons that take me back to my trips to Italy.
Faced with 42 flavours of ice cream, Alessandro opens the glass counter by remote control and invites us to taste.
I can’t resist trying the Black Sesame ice cream, the creamy Fior di Latte and the Lychee gelato which is now in season.
Most of the ice creams are made by Via del Corso while nine are sourced from renowned names such as Serendipity. Plans are underway to open a factory in Rozelle in new year where all their gelati and ice cream will be made.
Via del Corso offers seating for an eat-in option, or you can pretend to be in Italy and stand by the bar.
Alessandro Fuscaldo and Gionino
The last stop on our Taste Tour is the refurbished Sky Phoenix on Level Six for Yum Cha. With a capacity for 400 diners, including private rooms, this well-loved CBD restaurant is already full with the lunchtime crowd.
We feast on a range of vegetarian, prawn and seafood dumplings, steamed Chinese broccoli, seaweed and pork ribs in chilli and black bean before the tour ends.
In the second quarter of 2011, Stage 2 of Westfield Sydney will see the opening of two contemporary Asian restaurants Sassy’s Red (by Simon Goh of Chinta Ria) and Chat Thai on Levels Five and Six.
*Image courtesy of Westfield Sydney
Corner of Castlereagh and Market Street
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